There’s more to California than just movie stars and Disneyland. This is a state that boasts a large number of stunning natural attractions, including beautiful beaches, serene deserts and majestic mountains. California is also home to a number of exciting major cities, charming towns and to some of the world’s best wineries. An overview of the best places to visit in California:
See also: 9 Best Day Trips from San Francisco
Located in the California desert, Palm Springs has long been a popular winter playground for the rich and famous. The sun shines for approximately 350 days of the year on Palm Springs and during the winter months, it enjoys pleasant daytime highs in the mid 60 °F degrees (16 °C). Visitors to Palm Springs can take advantage of all of this sunshine in a number of ways. One of the most popular ways is on one of the city’s many golf courses and driving ranges. Palm Springs also boasts a number of exciting annual events, including the famous Coachella and Stagecoach music festivals. But the fun doesn’t end when the sun goes down. Palm Springs is also home to many fine-dining restaurants and to a large number of bars, clubs and casinos.
This charming island is located approximately 22 miles (35 km) across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles. It is both a favorite day trip for visitors to L.A., as well as a popular vacation and honeymoon spot. Santa Catalina is a small island with two main centers of population, Two Harbors and Avalon. Most travelers to the island stay mainly in the Avalon area. Surprisingly, the island even boasts a small population of American bison that were brought to the island during the filming of a movie. Travelers can reach the island by private boat, ferries, helicopters or small planes. Once on the island, transportation is limited to bicycles, taxis and golf carts.
Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal city that is located about 90 miles (150 km) north of Los Angeles in Southern California. Sometimes referred to as “The American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is famous for its mild temperatures and for the California Mission-style architecture that is very common in this city. A long-standing local ordinance ensures that all commercial construction follows the Mission theme, which results in a plethora of red-tiled roofs and adobe supermarkets. In addition, Santa Barbara boasts beautiful beaches and is a popular getaway spot for Los Angeles residents. Santa Barbara’s most popular attractions are its Stearns Wharf and the Mission Santa Barbara, a Spanish outpost founded by the Franciscan order in 1786.
These two national parks are located next door to each other in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, and both are famous for their enormous giant sequoia trees. These trees can grow to be more than 300 feet (90 meters) tall and their trunks can be as much as 100 feet (30 meter) wide. Sequoia National Park, which was established in 1890, is also home to Mount Whitney, which is the highest point in the contiguous United States. Interestingly enough, Kings Canyon boasts the deepest canyon in America. The parks are also home to a lot of wildlife species, including bobcats, gray foxes, bears and mule deer. If they’re lucky, visitors might even be able to spot bighorn sheep or mountain lions. Both parks are popular with backpackers and hikers, and there are 14 campgrounds available for visitors.
Napa Valley is the premier destination for wine lovers in the United States. Its wines are considered to be some of the best in the world. To accommodate the many vino connoisseurs that travel to Napa, the area now boasts a variety of accommodations, including charming bed and breakfasts, lovely boutique hotels and well-known chain hotels. There are also camping grounds available for those interested in saving a little money on lodging. In addition, Napa Valley boasts many world-class spas where visitors can get pampered and enjoy a variety of fun activities, including hot air balloon rides and guided bike wine tours.
With fabulous beaches, ideal climate and outstanding family attractions, it is no wonder that San Diego is one of the most popular places to visit in California. Located just north of the Mexican border, San Diego is a large coastal city with a small town atmosphere. The most popular attraction in San Diego is America’s premier zoo, which is located in Balboa Park with flowering gardens and Spanish architecture. The city is home to other family attractions like SeaWorld San Diego and the Birch Aquarium. Another tourist magnet, San Diego’s stunning coastline, offers miles of fantastic beaches including the upscale beach neighborhood of La Jolla.
Read more: Top San Diego Attractions
Located in the Mojave Desert, Death Valley encompasses much of the Death Valley National Park. Although regarded as the driest and lowest place in North America, Death Valley offers a variety of outdoor activities, historic sites and nature viewing. From snow-capped mountains to colorful sand dunes, the unique desert landscapes of Death Valley are like no other place in California. Places of interests include the scenic vista of Zabriskie Point and historic sites like Scotty’s Castle, the Wildrose Charcoal Kilns and ruins of ghost towns.
The second-largest city in the USA, Los Angeles is located in southern California surrounded by the Pacific Coast, mountains and valleys. Known as the City of Angels, the city offers a wide range of attractions and beaches, including wild-and-crazy Venice Beach and Malibu, the sandy playground favored by movie stars. Travelers to L.A. can find some of the best-known amusement parks on the planet here, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood. Los Angeles is also one of the best places in the United States to go in search of celebrities. Tourists can look for celebrity homes or shop at the designer stores in Beverly Hills that cater to the stars. And in L.A., travelers can also visit and eat at the same famous restaurants that the celebs and the rich and famous dine at.
Read more: Top L.A. Attractions
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of central eastern California, the Yosemite National Park is well-loved for its stunning granite cliffs, Giant Sequoia groves, beautiful waterfalls and diverse animal and plant life. Visitors can hike among the 800 miles of trails, or drive along scenic routes to experience the beautiful landscapes and glimpse wildlife. Attractions include Glacier Point, with incredible views of the Yosemite Valley, the nature center and Yosemite Museum and historic places like the LeConte Memorial Lodge and the Ahwahnee Hotel.
San Francisco is a fun and exciting city in northern California, set on the tip of a peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area. Undoubtedly, the Golden Gate Bridge is the city’s number one attraction. Tourists can drive, bike ride or walk across this famous suspension bridge to admire and photograph stunning views. In addition, visitors to San Francisco can visit Lombard Street, which is famous for its tight curves, or take a trip to San Francisco’s Chinatown section, which is the largest outside of Asia. And then, of course, there are the other big tourist favorites — Fisherman’s Wharf and the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island.
Read more: Top San Francisco Attractions